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Join us for the latest on the best in extraordinary fictional television and film from the past, present and future, and analysis on its cultural impacts.

Find out about the amazing facts in fiction, and discover the truth about what's really going on in the World around us...

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Wednesday, 20 February 2008

Writers Ray and Alan were responsible for shows like Hancock and Steptoe and Son ...

 

Born a year apart, Ray Galton and Alan Simpson first met at Milford Sanatorium in 1948 while undergoing treatment for T.B. and decided to collaborate on comedy shows for the amateur radio room used for occupational therapy.

Avid listeners of Take It From Here and The Goon Show, they wrote four scripts entitled Have You Ever Wondered. After leaving the sanatorium, Alan was asked to write a show for his church concert party. He contacted Ray, and by 1951 the pair were writing professionally for the BBC.

During the next decade the pair established themselves as one of Britain's most successful comedy-writing partnerships. Working from an office over a greengrocer in Shepherd's Bush along with a crowd of writers that included Spike Milligan and Eric Sykes, they met Tony Hancock and in 1954 Ray and Alan started writing Hancock's Half Hour.

Running for 101 episodes until its final broadcast in 1959, by 1956 the radio show transferred to television with 63 episodes screened before it ended in 1961. After their Sid James vehicle Citizen James, the pair moved on to write the BBC Comedy Playhouse. From the sixteen episodes emerged Steptoe and Son, starring Wilfred Brambell and Harry H. Corbett as the two rag-and-bone men.

Over the next twelve years Steptoe and Son ran for eight series on television and five on radio. Like Hancock's Half Hour before it, the format was sold world-wide, most successfully in America where Sanford and Son topped the ratings for five years.

After adapting Gabriel Chevalier's novel Clochemerle for television, they wrote the BBC series Casanova, starring Leslie Phillips, Dawson's Weekly and seven plays for The Galton and Simpson Playhouse before Alan decided to take a sabbatical. In 1995 they got back together to update eight of their classic scripts for the first of two series of Paul Merton in Galton and Simpson's .... Three years later BBC Radio 4 celebrated the 50th Anniversary of their partnership by broadcasting four of their comedies, specially adapted by Ray and Alan, in The Galton and Simpson Radio Playhouse.

Amongst their film credits are The Rebel, starring Tony Hancock, an adaptation of Joe Orton's play Loot, and two Steptoe and Son features. For the stage they collaborated on the revue Way Out in Piccadilly and adapted Rene d'Obaldia's The Wind in the Sassafras Trees, starring Frankie Howerd, which successfully transferred from London to Broadway.

The recipients of numerous awards, including the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Writers Guild, Ray and Alan were recognised with OBEs in the Millennium New Year's Honours.

In 2002 the BFI ran a special season culminating in the launch of a new book to commemorate forty years of Steptoe and Son, written in conjunction with Robert Ross.

 

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Wednesday, 20 February 2008

Star of Paul Temple and Captain Scarlet ...

 

Schooled in classical theatre, Francis Matthews began his career as an Assistant Stage Manager at the Theatre Royal, Leeds. His first role, at the age of 17, as a schoolboy in a production of Emlyn Williams "The Corn is Green" led to two years in rep at the Oxford Playhouse, followed by subsequent leading roles in London's West End. Acting alongside Rex Harrison in "Aren't We All", and playing Badger in the National Theatre's production of "Wind in the Willows", Francis starred as Mr Darcy in the musical version of "Pride and Prejudice", which inaugurated the new Birmingham Repertory Theatre, and Professor Henry Higgins in a European tour of "My Fair Lady".

On television, Francis made guest appearances in shows such as Hancock ("The Writer"), The Avengers ("The Thirteenth Hole" and "Mission: Highly Improbable"), The Saint ("The Noble Sportsman" and "To Kill a Saint"), The Adventures of Robin Hood ("The Little People" and "The Minstrel"), the war-time spy drama O.S.S. ("Operation Powder Puff"),and the BBC’s SF anthology series Out of the Unknown.

He starred as an educated and ambitious son of a furniture producer, forcing his traditionalist father to modernise his ways, in the sit-com A Little Big Business, before landing the lead in Gerry and Sylvia Anderson's 1967 series Captain Scarlet and the Mysterons. Basing the voice of the title character on his impersonation of actor Cary Grant, Francis played the indestructible Spectrum agent, defending the Earth from Mysteron threats.

After the success of Captain Scarlet Francis moved on to another starring role in the BBC's classic detective series, Paul Temple. Based on the character created in the 1930s by Francis Durbridge, and similar in vein to Dashiell Hammett's The Thin Man, where fabulously wealthy Nick and Nora Charles become high-society sleuths, Paul Temple was similarly suave and sophisticated, but it was his success as a writer of detective novels that allowed him to become an amateur detective. Touring Europe with his wife, Steve, while solving crime, the part seemed tailor-made for Francis.

He played six characters in Alan Plater’s Trinity Tales, a contemporary reworking of Chaucer's "Canterbury Tales", and was a three-times guest on The Morecambe and Wise Show, as well as appearing alongside Eric and Ernie in their film comedies The Intelligence Men and That Riviera Touch.

With other television roles including Lord Peregrine Hansford in the sitcom My Man Joe, as well as parts in Don't Forget To Write, Middlemen, and A Roof Over My Head, Francis has made more recent appearances in Taggart, Tears Before Bedtime, and Jonathan Creek.

After appearing with the late Ava Gardner in the film "Bhowani Junction", Francis appeared on the big screen in "Crossplot", "Just Like A Woman", "Rasputin The Mad Monk", "Dracula: Prince of Darkness", "Murder Ahoy", "Nine Hours to Rama", "The Treasure of Monte Cristo", "The Hellfire Club", "I Only Arsked", and "The Revenge of Frankenstein". He played Noel Coward in "Ike", and Prime Minister Harold Macmillan in "Moi, General De Gaulle" and appeared with William Hurt in "Do Not Disturb".

Francis joined in the fun at the Cult TV Festivals in 2002 and 2006.

 

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Wednesday, 20 February 2008

Sarah-Jane Smith returned to Doctor Who, then got her own spin-off show, and we were delighted the actress who plays her returned to the Cult TV Festival in 2006 ...

 

Elisabeth Sladen is perhaps one of the most famous of all the Doctor Who companions, having been a cornerstone of both the Jon Pertwee and Tom Baker eras of the programme. Her character of Sarah Jane Smith also appeared in a spin-off pilot in the 1980s, K9 and Company, and both she and the robotic pooch are returning to the series, for the first full season with new TARDIS incumbent David Tennant this year.

Elisabeth steadily built up to this role as companion, her big break came when she played Desdemona in a TV adaption of Shakespeare’s "Othello". There was also a short stint as barmaid Anita Reynolds in half a dozen episodes of Coronation Street in 1970. In 1972 she played a terrorist in "Say Knife, Fat Man", an episode of Doomwatch. Elisabeth found herself on the right side of the law, playing a police woman in episodes of Special Branch and Public Eye. She also popped up in a trio of episodes of Z Cars as well as Some Mothers Do 'Ave 'Em.

Following her three and a half years in Doctor Who, Elisabeth went back to work in theatre in Liverpool. She was not off our screens for long, as she spent a couple of years as a presenter of the children's series Stepping Stones. Elisabeth then co-starred in Send in the Girls, a seven episode comedy about a Sales Promotion Team that also starred Floella Benjamin, Annie Ross, Andrew Sachs and Anna Carteret, and the six episode sit-com Take My Wife, playing spouse Josie in a vehicle designed for comedian Duggie Brown.

Other television appearances have included In Loving Memory, Play for Today, Dempsey & Makepeace, The Bill, Peak Practice and Faith in the Future.

In 1981, former Doctor Who producer Barry Letts cast Elisabeth as one of the leads in the BBC's production of Gulliver in Lilliput, and she worked with Letts again, playing the Dormouse in the 1986 adaption of Alice in Wonderland.

Elisabeth appeared as a bank secretary in "Silver Dream Racer", a movie written by Michael Billington (Foster in UFO) and starring David Essex.

Sarah-Jane Smith has never been too far away for Elisabeth – as well as the 20th anniversary celebration story "The Five Doctors", the Children In Need special "Dimensions in Time", as well as the BBV production "Downtime", there were also the BBC Radio plays "The Paradise of Death" and "The Ghosts of N-Space". Big Finish Productions is also currently releasing several audio adventures featuring Sarah-Jane. Elisabeth also appeared in the Bernice Summerfield story "Walking to Babylon", as Ninan-ashtammu, a member of that ancient civilisation.

Previously a celebrity guest at the Cult TV Festivals in 1996 and 1997, we were delighted that Elisabeth joined us once more in 2006.

 

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Wednesday, 20 February 2008

Doctor Who's Grand-daughter Susan joined our celebration of the origins of the travelling Time Lord at Cult TV 2005 ...

 

Carole Ann Ford first appeared in a film at the age of eight. Following acting and elocution lessons, she started doing commercials and walk-on work. Her first professional role was in the play "Women of the Streets" and her career blossomed from that first engagement.

She excelled in the world of televisions, taking roles in series that included Whatever Happened to the Likely Lads, Public Eye, Z Cars, Emergency Ward 10, Attorney General, Probation Officer, Dial M for Murder, Moonstrike, Compact and Man on a Bicycle.

It was while working on Man on a Bicycle that she was approached to play the part of Susan in Doctor Who. After leaving the series, being unhappy with the way Susan’s character was not being allowed to develop, Carole worked mainly in the theatre and, having missed a lot of her first daughter Miranda’s childhood due to pressure of work, decided to put her family first when her second daughter Tara-Louise was born.

As her family commitments became less demanding, Carole took on more acting work, and also began voice coaching for actors, businessmen and politicians. She also reprised her role as Susan in the 20th anniversary Doctor Who story "The Five Doctors", and spin-offs such as the independent production Shakedown, and "Auld Mortality" and "A Storm of Angels" for the Big Finish audio range of Doctor Who - Unbound adventures.

Carole’s theatre credits include "The Jungle Book", "Stranger in the House", "Bakerloo to Paradise", "The Owl and the Pussycat", "The Rumpus", "Pride and Prejudice", "Inadmissible Evidence", "Enrico", 2Expresso Bongo", "Sleeping Beauty", "You Never Can Tell", "Ned Kelly", "Mother", "MacBett", "The Boyfriend", "Have You Seen Manchester", "Private Lives" and "Solitary Confinement".

On film she has appeared in "Sarah", "The Hiding Place", "The Great St Trinians Train Robbery", "Mix Me a Person" and the part of the blind French girl Bettina in "The Day of the Triffids".

Today, Carole lives in North London with husband Harry ... and Tara-Louise has grown up to become an actress herself.

 

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Wednesday, 20 February 2008

A regular guest in the worlds of Doctor Who, and familar face from a huge range of Cult TV series ...

 

Guest-starring in the Cult TV shows The Saint, Department S, The Persuaders! and three episodes of The Avengers, Bernard appeared in four Doctor Who adventures directed by John Maloney.

He played Gulliver in the 1968 story The Mind Robber, a Time Lord in The War Games, which marked Patrick Troughton’s last outing as The Doctor, and appeared as Taron in Planet of the Daleks opposite Jon Pertwee. Playing Chancellor Goth in The Deadly Assassin, his battle with Tom Baker is one of the most violent scenes in the history of the series and drew strong complaints from Mary Whitehouse.

Amongst his numerous television credits, Bernard portrayed Sir Christopher Hatton in Elizabeth R and Dr Philip Martel in Enemy at the Door, set during the Nazi occupation of the Channel Islands, Rankin in The Jewel in the Crown, the Prime Minister in For the Greater Good, and Peter Dobson in Nice Town.

After roles in Minder and Between the Lines, he played Harland in The Return of Sherlock Holmes's The Hound of the Baskervilles, starring Jeremy Brett and Edward Hardwicke, and the elder Crawford in David Pirie's Murder Rooms: The Dark Beginnings of Sherlock Holmes.

On the big screen he played Campbell opposite George Lazenby’s James Bond in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, then went on to appear in Gold and Shout at the Devil for director Peter Hunt. More recently he played General Edgar in Richard Attenborough’s Gandhi and Balliol in Braveheart.

 

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Wednesday, 20 February 2008

Chief Sharkey from Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea ...

 

Actor, director, producer, and writer Terry Becker has been a familiar figure on television since the 1950s, on series such as Perry Mason, Bonanza, Gunsmoke, M Squad, The Untouchables, Wanted: Dead Or Alive, Sea Hunt, Combat!, Rawhide, and most memorably as Chief Francis Ethelbert Sharkey in Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea.

Born in New York City, Terry discovered as early as elementary school that acting in plays helped keep him out of trouble. He later attended Morris High School in the Bronx, where one classmate was fellow future actor Ross Martin, who was a close friend. While there, Terry tried directing and discovered that he enjoyed that discipline as well. He turned to drama after he graduated, studying at the American Theater Wing. His teachers included Stella Adler and Lee Stratsburg and he also made the acquaintance of playwright Paddy Chayefsky, who was to become a giant in the world of American television in the 1950s.

As an aspiring young actor in post-World War II New York, he crossed paths with such up-and-coming players as Marlon Brando, Ben Gazzara and Anthony Franciosa on the New York Stage. Terry made his television debut on the same episode of The Philco Playhouse that saw the debut of Ernest Borgnine. Terry went on to appear in parts of varying sizes, from bits to starring roles, in dozens of early live-television dramas, while continuing his stage work.

After his move to Hollywood, he continued to work in television drama, one of his best known performances being “ I Am the Night, Color Me Black”, an episode of The Twilight Zone.

Picked by Irwin Allen as a replacement for the late Henry Kulky, who had played Chief Curley Jones up until his death in 1965, Terry brought his personality to the set of Voyage To The Bottom Of The Sea. As Robert Dowdell recently noted: "Terry brought humour to the show in a way that would have made Voyage very different if he had not been part of those last three years".

He developed a rapport - and lasting friendship - with star Richard Basehart, that gave a depth and interest to the characters, and often carried episodes that would have failed without that relationship.

After Voyage, Terry went on to direct, produce and develop a number of TV series. With Gene Reynolds and James L Brooks, he created Room 222, directing several of the episodes, and winning an Emmy along the way. He also directed episodes of Mission: Impossible, M*A*S*H, Love American Style, Anna and The King and The Courtship of Eddie’s Father.

Terry then moved into film, writing and directing “The Thirsty Dead”, executive producing “The Last Hurrah” that starred Carroll O’Connor, and producing the TV movies “Savage in the Orient” (starring John Saxon and Leif Erickson) and “Blade in Hong Kong” (with Leslie Nielsen and James Hong).

Today, Terry spends his time running Sugar Flowers Plus, a company that makes gum paste flowers for cake and cookie decoration, and acting in new films with the UCLA Film Department. He recently won an award for one of those films, in which he starred.

 

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Wednesday, 20 February 2008

The young female star of Bless This House ...

 

 

Beginning her television career with guest roles in the anthology series Detective produced by Verity Lambert, and the ITC shows Strange Report and Man in a Suitcase, Sally Geeson is best known for her role as Sally Abbott in the ITV sitcom, Bless This House.

Created by Vince Powell and Harry Driver, Bless This House starred Sid James and Diana Coupland as Sid and Jean Abbott, trying to bridge the Generation Gap between themselves and their teenage children; Mike a work-shy liberal, played by Robin Stewart, and Sally, who embraced the principles of Free Love. With the addition of the neighbours, Trevor and Betty, the sitcom handled the standard comedy situations with gusto.

Produced and directed by William G. Stewart, now familiar as the presenter of the quiz Fifteen To One, Bless This House became one of the most popular sitcoms of the 1970s. Running for six series, the show also earned a film version directed by Carry On director Gerald Thomas with Terry Scott and June Whitfield as the Abbott's neighbours.

Sally began her film career in 1969 with The Oblong Box. An adaptation of Edgar Allan Poe’s The Premature Burial directed by Gordon Hessler, she appeared as Sally Baxter, maid to Christopher Lee's Doctor Neuhart and Vincent Price's Sir Julian Markham. The next year she played Sarah in Cry of the Banshee, also directed by Hessler and starring Price as the witch-hunter Lord Edward Whitman.

In What's Good for the Goose Sally starred as the free-spirited hippy, Nikki, who opens Norman Wisdom's timid assistant bank manager's eyes to the era of Free Love. She appeared as Jackie in Mr. Forbrush and the Penguins, starring John Hurt as a biologist who tries to impress a girl he has been chasing by studying a penguin colony in the Antarctic.

Sally also appeared as Lily in Carry On Abroad, set at the Spanish resort of Elsbels, and Debra in Carry On Girls in which a seaside town tries to boost its image by holding a beauty contest.

 

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Wednesday, 20 February 2008

The creator of Timeslip and the first producer of The Tomorrow People ...

 

Ruth is most fondly known for creating ITV’s first science fiction drama, Timeslip, while working for the ATV script department. She was also a script editor on the definitive The Adventures of Rupert Bear from John Read and Mary Turner, and on Tightrope, the series Spencer Banks did after Timeslip, which also starred John Savident. She also wrote the min-series Escape Into Night

This was followed in 1972 by a move to Thames Television, and producing the first four seasons of The Tomorrow People. She then produced the children's horror anthology series Shadows, which featured the likes of Jenny Agutter, Pauline Quirke, Russell Hunter, Sophie Ward, John Woodvine, Jacqueline Pearce, Clive Swift, Cassandra Harris and Donald Houston.

Other productions in her time at Thames include The Molly Wopsies with Phil Daniels, Warrior Queen with Sian Phillips and Nigel Hawthorne, and The Jukes of Piccadilly (also with Nigel Hawthorne).

Ruth moved on to producing adult drama for the BBC in the 1980s, taking the helm of many successful television dramas including Maybury, starring Patrick Stewart, Cockles with James Grout and Joan Sims, Late Starter with Peter Barkworth and Rowena Cooper, A Sort of Innocence with Cheryl Campbell and Kenneth Cranham, and Campaign with Penny Downie and Camille Coduri.

In the 1990s she was best known for producing the television dramas The Chief, starring Tim Piggott-Smith and Martin Shaw, and mini-series The Uninvited with Douglas Hodge and Leslie Grantham.

Her films include “Run of the Country” with Albert Finney, co-produced by Peter Yates and written by Shane Connaughton (of "My Left Foot" fame). She is currently developing a feature films entitled "Beautiful Enemy".

Ruth has recently returned to writing with her novel "Out of Time", published by The Muswell Press, and the audiobook adaption, read by Staten Eliot, is produced by Fantom Films.

Ruth Boswell appeared at the 2006 Cult TV Festival courtesy of Fantom Films.

 

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Wednesday, 20 February 2008

Star of Doctor Who and Rainbow ...

 

Leaving school to tour England with the National Association of Boys Clubs' Travelling Theatre, Roy Skelton trained at the Bristol Old Vic Theatre School before working for various repertory companies around the country.

While acting in the West End, Roy appeared on television as Lampwick in Pinocchio and the BBC's Music for You and Quick Before They Catch Us. After voicing Mr Growser in the puppet version of Toytown, he worked on Picture Book as the voice of Sossidge the Dog, Take a Chance on Me and Rubovian Legends.

Roy's association with Doctor Who began in 1966, as the voice of the Monoid in "The Ark" and the Cybermen in "The Tenth Planet". Though Roy would be called upon to voice the computer in "The Ice Warriors" and later "The Krotons", he made his mark as the voice of the Daleks. From the seven-part "The Evil of the Daleks" through to "Remembrance of the Daleks" in 1988, he worked with all seven Doctors.

In 1971 he eventually appeared in Doctor Who as Norton in "Colony in Space". In "Planet of the Daleks", as well as voicing the exterminating aliens he played one of the invisible Spiridons who only appeared when he died. Cast as James in "The Green Death", he also played Chedaki in "The Android Invasion", and the ancient King Rokon in "The Hand of Fear".

While working on Doctor Who, Roy was contacted by the producer of Rainbow. The actor who had voiced Zippy for the pilot decided not to continue with the character and Roy was asked to take over. Expecting the job to last no more than a couple of weeks, instead the role lasted for twenty years during which time he also voiced George, wrote over 100 scripts, and recorded "It's a Rainbow" in November 2000, a chart success, with a subsequent dance compilation album including an incredible version of Zippy and George's version of the Weather Girls hit "It's Raining Men"! He also played various roles in the spin-off, "Take A Chance".

After returning to the Daleks in Comic Relief's Doctor Who: The Curse of Fatal Death, Roy played Henry Swift, Balberith, and The Vauturm in BBCi's animated webcast "Ghosts of Albion".

 

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Wednesday, 20 February 2008

Heard but not seen as the Blake's 7 artificial intelligence ...

 

 

Beginning his career in weekly repertory on Hastings Pier, Peter Tuddenham entertained the troops during the Second World War as a member of the Army's "Stars in Battledress". Back home, he won a part in Ivor Novello's "The Dancing Years" and, following stints in West End revues and farces, worked with Noel Coward in "Ace of Clubs".

Finding his way into radio, Peter acted in the long-running series "Mrs Dale's Diary" and "Waggoner's Walk", numerous literary adaptations, and original dramas including the Blake's 7 radio drama, "The Sevenfold Crown".

On television, he was the voice of the computer in the Doctor Who adventure "The Ark in Space" and the alien Mandragora Helix in "The Masque of Mandragora", both starring Tom Baker as the Doctor. A decade later he returned to play the voice of Brain in Sylvester McCoy's first adventure, "Time and the Rani". Before that Peter famously voiced the artificial intelligence in Terry Nation's Blake's 7. Giving each computer a distinct personality, he played Zen aboard the Liberator, the testy Orac and the obsequious Slave aboard the spaceship Scorpio.

In person, he appeared as Jack Godfrey in The Nine Tailors, starring Ian Carmichael as Dorothy L Sayer's Lord Peter Wimsey, the Campion drama "The Case of the Late Pig", with Peter Davison as Albert Campion and Brian Glover as his manservant Magersfontein Lugg, and played the Priest in P D James' A Mind to Murder. He played Doctor Rendel in The Lost Boys, based on J M Barrie's relationship with the Llewelyn-Davies family, and was reunited with Paul Darrow in the psychological drama Maelstrom.

Along with guest roles in Nearest and Dearest starring Hylda Baker and Jimmy Jewel, Only Fools and Horses, and One Foot in the Grave, Peter appeared in The Onedin Line, Bergerac, two episodes of Tales of the Unexpected and The Bill.

An authority on East Anglian dialect, he helped the players with their Suffolk accents for the Glyndebourne Opera Albert Herring and regularly works as a dialect coach for Anglian TV. The subject of a MythMakers DVD from Reeltime Pictures, the interview with Peter is hosted by none other than Orac himself.

Peter died peacefully in 2007.

 

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